The Commission has proposed to boost funding for environmental and climate projects through a new LIFE programme in the 2014-2020 period. If this regulation is adopted by the Member States and the European Parliament, more than € 800 million will be allocated to small-scale projects aiming at reducing emissions and at increasing Europe's resilience against climate change.
Under the next EU budget for the years 2014-2020, the Commission wants to increase support for climate activities through all major EU funding programmes (e.g. European Agricultural Development Fund, European Regional Development Fund, Horizon 2020) to 20% of the overall EU budget. LIFE brings added value by addressing the specific needs of climate and environmental projects.
Launched in 1992, the LIFE Programme is one of the spearheads of EU environmental funding. The current 2007-2013 LIFE+ programme has a budget of just above € 2.1 billion, of which almost 80% goes to grants for best practices, demonstration projects and NGOs that are active in the field of climate and environment.
LIFE+ provides up to 50% co-financing for innovative or pilot projects in the area of climate under the programme "Environment Policy & Governance". In 2011, more than €16 million was allocated to 14 projects directly tackling climate change, with a total budget of €40 million. In addition, 12 projects focusing on other issues will also have an indirect impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
Different evaluations confirm that LIFE is a successful instrument with a significant added value. The Commission proposal draws on a broad consultation with stakeholders, including two conferences, workshops with the Member States and other stakeholders, an online consultation with almost 1000 responses coming from inside and outside the EU, and a survey carried out by the Committee of the Regions.
Under the new LIFE programme, the overall budget would be raised to € 3.2 billion, of which €800 million would be allocated to a new climate sub-programme, which will focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions; increasing resilience to climate change; and increasing awareness, communication, and exchange of information on climate actions.
In particular, the new LIFE programme will support public authorities, NGOs and private actors, especially small and medium enterprises, in testing small-scale low carbon and adaptation technologies, new approaches and methodologies to address climate issues. Specific local and regional climate mitigation or adaptation strategies or action plans will also be financed. Moreover, the sub-programme will support capacity building as well as awareness-raising actions involving stakeholders, in order to improve the implementation of the existing climate legislation.
There is a great potential for synergies between environmental and climate actions. For instance, projects related to forest protection may bring benefits for both biodiversity and climate mitigation by enhancing the reforestation and thereby also improving carbon absorption capacity. Floodplain restoration projects may facilitate adaptation to climate change and the transition towards a more climate resilient society. The new LIFE programme will stimulate these synergies through the new Integrated Projects. These projects will focus on a larger territorial scale (e.g., regional, multi-regional, national); and aim at leveraging funding from other public and private sources too.